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Old 06-27-2006, 03:39 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Greta Pratt Photography

I found this link on Reuter's Oddly Enough but didn't find it all that odd:
Photographer snaps America's past in today's scenes
Tue Jun 27, 2006 3:24 PM ET

By Arthur Spiegelman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Photographer Greta Pratt knew she hit the jackpot when the nine Abraham Lincolns sat down on the wood fence outside the 16th president's old Kentucky home.

Nine unsmiling, bearded Lincoln impersonators, with black stovepipe hats, starched white shirts, black ties and long, black flock coats arguing over which one was the most authentic -- you can't ask for anything more in Pratt's world.

Unless, of course, it's the cleaning lady pushing her vacuum cleaner past the concrete tee-pees at the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona, or tourists downing fries and Cokes at the picnic tables nestled among rockets at the Kennedy Space Center.

Or it might be boys in baseball caps begging Gen. George C. Custer for his autograph, perhaps before he rides off to his doom in a re-enactment of the battle at Little Big Horn.

Pratt's photographic universe is actually an intersection -- the place where the American past slams into the American present. And it is on full display in her new book of photos called "Using History" (Streidl).

In the book, three generations of prosperous white males celebrate Thanksgiving dinner at the Rainbow Room in Manhattan's Rockefeller Center wearing Brooks Brothers suits, shirts and ties, all capped by little Indian headdresses. The dinner cost $120 a person, headdresses included.

A few pages later a green-tinted Lady Liberty eats popcorn in the bleachers at Madison Square Garden. She is Jennifer Stewart, who once won a Statue of Liberty look-alike contest and started dressing as the statue and even went to Japan with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Pratt often uses clever juxtapositions of photos to tell her tale of how Americans incorporate their country's past to explain their attitudes to the present.


For example, in one photo a black woman lectures an all-black audience on history in front of a statue of a hooded Ku Klux Klansman at the Great Blacks in Wax Museum in Baltimore. And in the photo directly opposite, young white boys in 19th century garb march in an "Arrival of the Whites" parade in Deadwood, South Dakota.

In another photo with a racial overtones, she catches the nervousness of a young black waiter as he arrives for work at a "Bonny Blue" ball in Richmond, Virginia, where an all-white guest list is dressed up as Confederate soldiers or Southern belles. The man has to drive his car past a none-too-friendly-looking Confederate soldier in a search of a 20th Century convenience called a parking space.

Pratt opens her book with a photo of a white-haired couple viewing a re-enactment of the gun fight at the OK Corral in Deadwood. Facing that photo is a picture of a car with a "Wanted Dead or Alive" poster of Osama bin Laden pasted on the window.

For her, that was a way of showing how the mystique of the Old West permeates every fiber of the American present, she said.

"The Osama poster made it all come home for me. I didn't want a funny picture but I wanted to examine who Americans are and how the writing of history defines the characteristics of out group identity," Pratt said in a recent interview.


"President Bush uses the mythology of the cowboy perfectly and a 'Wanted Dead or Alive' poster works perfectly as well to bring Americans together," she added.

Pratt, a former photographer for Reuters and a 1987 Pulitzer Prize nominee at United Press International who has also published in the New York Times magazine, spent about a decade roaming the country in search of how Americans put their past to use and misuse.

She visited Civil War re-enactments and a restaurant in the shape of a giant "Mammy." She photographed Revolutionary War soldiers crossing a steel bridge, listened to the Lincoln impersonators bicker back and forth and took countless pictures of men and women draped in American flags.

Always she is struck by how the images of the past wind up being put to present-day uses -- sometimes tacky ones like the soda machine at Mount Rushmore having a photo of Mount Rushmore on it.

"When I first started, I could not find anything to do with African-American history. Now there museums and plantations with slave quarters restored," Pratt said.

And, of course, a tourist can now rent a slave quarter for the night. Although it might not be as well air-conditioned as the Wigwam Motel.
I love photographs. I lack the talent to take anything interesting on my own it seems, but I damn sure enjoy other's creativity. I don't know if that is because I have a "why didn't (can't) I think of that" thought when I see something like this or if I just wonder what makes these people's creative thought processes work.

At any rate, I though these pictures interesting and thought mayhaps someone else would too.

A link to the photographers website.
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Old 06-30-2006, 09:03 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Highly interesting! Thanks for the article and the link. She is doing some very cool work.
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Old 06-30-2006, 09:33 AM   #3 (permalink)
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She's has a real talent for capturing the american spirit!
Thanks for sharing, Psycho Dad.
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Old 06-30-2006, 09:33 AM   #4 (permalink)
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-edit: Somethings up with my browser or something that's twice today I've had double posts show up!

Last edited by Brewmaniac; 06-30-2006 at 09:39 AM..
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greta, photography, pratt

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